Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

Opinion | Stop Persecuting Black and Brown Girls in School

More from our inbox:

To the Editor:

Re “Racism in the Principal’s Office: Seeking Justice for Black Girls” (front page, Oct. 2):

In New York City, in the year 2020, a girl who defends her friend in a fight can be charged with a felony for gang activity, sending her to detention and a lifetime of consequences.

Thank you for shining a light on the unfair punishment meted out in the school system to young Black and brown girls, who have for generations been the target of neglect, surveillance and punitive discipline policies for being “loud” or “threatening.”

Every day at the youth organization I run, we teach our students a survival skill: code switching. For them, changing how they present themselves to society — from body language to wardrobe to speech — can keep them alive, employed and free.

I look forward to the day when fashion choices and “sassy” attitudes are accepted for what they really are: an expression of strength, independence and spirit. I look forward to the day we stop silencing, penalizing and incarcerating our girls of color, and start listening to what they are telling us and give them the same opportunities and respect as their white or white-passing peers.

Gisele Castro
New York
The writer is executive director of Exalt, a nonprofit that works with teenagers who have been involved in the criminal justice system.

Women’s Health, at the Top of the List

To the Editor:

Re “Women in Academia Face a New Burden” (Science Times, Oct. 6):

The severity of the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened what was already a troubling phenomenon: When a health challenge strikes, women are often hit the hardest emotionally and economically. The reality is that, pandemic or not, women disproportionately leave successful careers to care for loved ones when facing diseases.

Changing workplace policies and practices to accommodate the unique circumstances and needs of women amid Covid-19 is one, albeit short-term, solution. But the only way to prevent this in the future is committing to better, more thorough health research now.

Across a number of diseases, men and women experience different symptoms, outcomes and responses to treatments. Current clinical research rarely accounts for this, leaving gaps in our understanding of many diseases. For instance, Covid is more fatal for men, yet few clinical trials consider sex and gender differences.

Without adequate knowledge, women will continue to bear the economic and professional burdens of the health challenges that plague us. Not only will women suffer, but we will also forfeit the invaluable contributions of women in the work force.

Carolee Lee
Greenwich, Conn.
The writer is the founder and chief executive of WHAM! (Women’s Health Access Matters).

Domestic Help, Then and Now

To the Editor:

Re “This Crisis Was Generations in the Making” (Sunday Business, Sept. 20):

Irish immigrant women dominated live-in domestic service as maids, nannies, cooks and so on in urban Northeastern America between 1850 and 1920, where they were stereotypically called “Bridget.” So strong was the association between the name Bridget and Irish servants that many Irish girls named Bridget changed their names when they arrived here; Delia became a favored replacement for Bridget.

Irish domestics were discriminated against based on ethnicity and religion; most of them were Roman Catholics, and as the historian John Higham notes, “Anti-Catholic nativism … completely overshadowed every other nativist tradition” in America.

But unlike many contemporary domestics, who are undocumented, Irish immigrant domestics were legal immigrants. Undocumented domestics earn less money than documented domestics do and are more vulnerable to employer exploitation than legal immigrant domestics.

Being undocumented makes everything worse.

Margaret Lynch-Brennan
Latham, N.Y.
The writer is the author of “The Irish Bridget: Irish Immigrant Women in Domestic Service in America, 1840-1930.”

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